Shiatsu means finger massage in Japanese. It developed at the beginning of the twentieth century from the ancient therapy anma, and is now recognised by the Japanese government as an effective form of treatment. The principles are based on the traditional Chinese system of meridians and pressure points: the energy force, Ki, runs through the body, and when it becomes blocked, overactive or depleted illness results (not necessarily at the site of the Ki disturbance, but along the affected meridian). This is remedied by stimulation of tsubos external points on the body either by gentle massage or with more vigorous pressure from the knees, elbows or feet; the limbs may also be moved into positions that stretch the meridians.

Western medicine regards shiatsu simply as a form of deep massage, which has the associated benefits of regulating the hormonal, circulatory and lymphatic systems, aiding the elimination of waste products and promoting relaxation.


For a shiatsu session, loose clothing should be worn. The patient lies on a futon on the floor, and the practitioner kneels beside them. The whole body is worked upon at each session.

Before treating the patient, the Four Examinations are applied to the patient: the practitioner will ask about your medical history, lifestyle and emotional state; observe your physical appearance and posture; listen to your voice; and touch you to read your pulse. The final diagnostic tool is the hara, which involves gently feeling the abdomen to assess the energy-flow in the internal organs.

After the treatment, the patient should feel relaxed yet invigorated, and notice improvements in any health problem being addressed. Flu-like symptoms for a couple of days are said to indicate that the body is expelling toxins released by the treatment.

Shiatsu is very safe, though any health conditions should always be mentioned to the practitioner at the first consultation. The Shiatsu Society has never had a complaint about the treatment. Always check that your practitioner is a Member of the Register of the Shiatsu Society.

What conditions are suitable for treatment by Shiatsu?

Pain management
Neck injuries and stiffness
Repetitive strain injury
Digestive problems
Musculo-skeletal problems, such as arthritis
Stress, fatigue, insomnia
Headaches, migraines
Menstrual pain
Circulatory problems
Irritable bowel syndrome
Relief of cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities

Some NHS wards use shiatsu practitioners to help cancer and AIDS patients.

Many people use regular shiatsu sessions to maintain general good health, and promote relaxation.


The Shiatsu Society
Eastlands Court
St Peters Road
Rugby CV21 3QP
Tel: 01788 555 051

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